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On my way back I run into George halfway between the Atlantean offices in CA-2 and Yellow Quadrant Dorm Section Fourteen.

George looks like he’s been pulled out of bed, or else he hadn’t been to sleep at all, his dark hair standing up in a tousled mess. He is breathing fast from running and his expression is grim. It’s the closest to being panicked that I’ve ever seen my brother be. With him is Logan, equally stressed and serious.

“Gwen! Where’s Gracie? Where is she?” George cries. “What the hell is happening? What has she done? I can’t believe any of this!”

I remember with a minor delay that up to this point George knew nothing about Gracie’s involvement in the sabotage incident. I am guessing, he has just been told by Mia and the others in Red Quadrant Dorm, Section Fourteen.

“It’s okay! Gracie’s okay!” I exclaim in a hurry, putting up my hands in a reassuring gesture. “She will be released! She—they Disqualified her but he—Aeson Kass—I talked to him and he somehow reinstated her, so she is being let out soon—”

And then in a jumbled torrent I explain what happened.

George and Logan stand listening to me, and George regains his breathing. “What an absolutely stupid, flaming ass!—oh man, Gracie, what an insane fool! How could she do this thing?”

“I know,” I say, and my own temples are pounding from renewed stress. “She’s a stupid little idiot and I’m ready to strangle her, but thank God it’s going to be okay!”

George shakes his head. “Why on earth would she even do it?”

“Get this—she was trying to impress Daniel Tover!”

“What?” Logan says. “What does Daniel have to do with this?”

“Apparently nothing.” I glance at him. “But Gracie has a little girl crush on him, and she thought she’d look cool or something.”

“Great. . . .”

I notice that meanwhile Logan has been staring at me closely, and I am not sure if it’s because of what I am saying, or if he is just worried about me.

“Logan,” I say with a light smile. “It will be all right. Really!”

“It’s amazing that you convinced the hard-ass Atlantean—Kass—to do this for Gracie. Seems to me, he didn’t do it so much for Gracie as he did it for you.”

“Huh?” I say. “I stalked him, begged and pleaded, and gave him every logical—and illogical—argument under the sky. I think I even went a little crazy there, not even sure I remember the insane stuff I said. But in a nutshell I reminded him I saved him from that burning shuttle, and I think he realized he owes me.”

“Well, good,” George says. “Because, he does. You saved his Goldilocks ass.”

* * *

An hour later, when we’re back at the dorms, namely Red Quadrant Dorm, Section Fourteen, Gracie shows up.

She looks awful. Her hair is a slept-in mess, jacket barely pulled on, smeared eyeliner and mascara streaks on her cheek. A guard is walking with her, carrying one of her duffel bags, while she has the other, slung over her shoulder.

 The moment she sees us, Gracie rushes forward and throws herself silently at me, and then at George. Her hug is so tight that she is choking me. Then George holds her in a bear hug, while she mutters something unintelligible, at the same time as I gently pat down her messy, dirty blond hair, and run my fingers through it in a calming way.

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